HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – On Day 169 of the state budget impasse, movement.
After an impromptu afternoon meeting between legislative leaders and Governor Wolf, House Republicans announced another ultimatum for the governor.
Wolf has 24 hours to round up votes in the House for his $30.8 billion spending plan that would require an increase in as-yet-to-be specified taxes.
“Once we know there are 102 votes there, we will go to the floor and wrap everything up by Saturday,” said Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana). But, and there’s always a but, “if that is not the case, within 24 hours we’ll prepare a stopgap proposal.”
A stopgap wouldn’t require a tax hike and would release money to schools and social services while broader negotiations continue. It would also free everyone for the Christmas break.
Wolf is not a fan of that. “I think we really want a budget, not a stopgap,” he said.
Legislative Democrats don’t support a stopgap either.
“I don’t think the stopgap is appropriate,” said Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) the Minority Leader. “We’ve gone too long, too hard, to figure this thing out.”
In the next few hours, sources say House members will be told exactly where the $30.8 billion is coming from.
Can it get done without a tax increase?
“No,” says Representative Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) the Minority Appropriations Chairman. “I think we have to have new revenues.”
New revenues means new taxes, which House Republicans are struggling to embrace.
“You have four caucuses,” said Representative Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia). “On paper, it’s three caucuses versus one caucus. House leadership on the Republican side, specifically, seems like they’re not clear on how to close the deal.”
But for many House Republicans, if the deal includes a tax hike it’s a bad deal.
“If people want to call us ‘outliers’ or ‘obstructionist,’ I’m OK wearing that label,” said Representative Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon), “because I’m here obstructing new taxes on the working man. That’s why I was sent here.”
So Wolf can skip the phone call to Diamond, who is clearly a no. The governor from York County is working hard to find 102 ‘yes’ votes in the House.
Meanwhile, the senator from York County is working just as hard to keep House members in the ‘no’ column and he’s playing hardball, reminding representatives that the primary election is just over four months away.
“If you vote for a tax increase you might as well consider your political career over,” Wagner said. “Because somebody’s gonna run against you.”